While the Pro Tour and Player of the Year playoff next week are both showcasing Standard, I have the pleasure of playing a Grand Prix this weekend in Modern. This has meant catching up on all the latest innovations and technology sparked by the addition of Guilds of Ravnica. With so many players eager to build new Standard decks often it takes a little longer for new cards to be discovered in Modern.
There is one deck that got a huge boost from Guilds of Ravnica because of one single card. I'm talking about the hottest and most clear-cut deck choice for those who have been following the Modern format over the past couple weeks: Dredge. The card that has been added to the deck to allow it to reach another level is Creeping Chill. Milling into a couple copies of Creeping Chill is a way to speed up the clock by a full turn in many cases. Here is a look at one of the current versions of the deck.
The deck still has many of the same important dredgers and enablers we are used to seeing. There did have to be some cards cut of course to make room for Creeping Chill, so we no longer see cards like Darkblast that might have previously filled the deck out. Knowing that Dredge got a boost in power a Dredge player also needs to expect players to have hate after sideboard.
This means that a card like Assassin's Trophy has a ton of value. Giving your opponent an extra land is perfectly fine if it means getting rid of a Rest in Peace. The fact is that it is hard to know exactly what hate cards your opponent will play, so a catch-all like Assassin's Trophy is perfect. The sideboard cards in Dredge aren't incredibly important, as you don't have as much room to improve as much as opponents do. Being this is a combo deck you won't want to sideboard out that many cards regardless of matchup. It makes sense to have Leyline of the Void as a high-variance card, but one that is insane if you are putting it into play versus the right matchup.
We have already talked about how Assassin's Trophy can be a strong sideboard card in Dredge, but it has made more of an impact than that. Black-Green Midrange decks have happily adopted this card as another awesome removal spell to have access to. The fact that Assassin's Trophy also can destroy lands makes it a very valuable card versus Tron as well. The amount of Assassin's Trophies that Jund wants to be playing in my opinion is two. Having too many of one removal spell – especially one that you don't really want to cast on turn two in some matchups – is something to avoid. Here is my recommended decklist.
What to cut from previous versions? Here we noticeably see the absence of Maelstrom Pulse. I think there is still an argument to play a Maelstrom Pulse in case your opponent goes wide with tokens or has multiple of the same permanent. This is a choice that is pretty metagame-dependent, and after sideboard Anger of the Gods is an important sweeper to have without access to Maelstrom Pulse.
With the combination of Assassin's Trophy and the Fulminator Mages then after sideboard the Tron matchup is actually pretty good, and that used to be the worst matchup for Jund. This list also has quite a bit of graveyard hate, as with Dredge picking up it is important to have access to multiple ways to attack the graveyard. Surgical Extraction works nicely alongside discard spells, as it can come in against combo decks as well.
While Jund is the most popular black-green deck in Modern, it isn't the only one. Both Abzan and straight Golgari also will be able to make use of Assassin's Trophy, so as a whole these sorts of midrange decks got a big boost from Guilds of Ravnica.
Now let's talk about a card that has inspired a completely new strategy: Arclight Phoenix. Much like the Izzet Arclight deck in Standard, the Modern deck wants to cheat it into the play as quickly as possible. The mono-red version is the most popular variant of this deck in Modern at the moment, and has been dubbed "Runaway Red."
When many players first saw Arclight Pheonix, it wasn't obvious that this card would make any impact on Constructed, and now it is creating new Modern decks! Of course, Arclight Phoenix isn't the only new card in this deck, as Runaway Steam-Kin is also really strong in a deck chalk full of red spells. There are discard outlets which can allow you to pitch Arclight Phoenix if you draw it, with the best enabler probably being Faithless Looting. You want to dump a bunch of spells into the graveyard to make Bedlam Reveler easier to cast as well.
As far as the spells, you want them to be cheap as that is going to make the deck more explosive and make it easier to bring Arclight Phoenix back earlier in the game. Desperate Ritual allows you to net mana while adding to your spell count towards returning Arclight Phoenix, so it is usually involved when trying to bring Arclight Phoenix back on turn two. Manamorphose is another card we are used to seeing in combo decks and is another important piece of the puzzle here as well.
There is a burn element to the deck as well, which gives it easy ways to close out games. The first burn spell in the deck is of course Lightning Bolt, but that is not where it stops. Lava Spike should indicate that burn is very much a primary way this deck is going to win the game. With all the discard outlets, Fiery Temper also fits nicely into the deck. Risk Factor acts as both a discard outlet and burn spell.
Risk Factor gives the deck something to do with its mana later in the game, which is important given how often you can dump your hand out within the first couple turns. Oftentimes burn decks are looking for just a little bit of reach to close things out, and Risk Factor provides that. The other burn spell is really a flex slot but does a lot of little things and can catch the opponent completely off guard – Gut Shot. This goes well with the burn plan, is another spell for Arclight Phoenix and Bedlam Reveler and isn't mana-intensive.
The best draws with this deck often involve essentially going off with a Runaway Steam-Kin by playing a bunch of spells and then making mana with Runaway Steam-Kin to fuel out a Bedlam Reveler. This deck can have some disgusting turns. The sideboard isn't anything special and that's okay. This is a mono-colored deck, so it isn't going to have as many options as multicolor strategies. Still, all the cards have their moments depending on the matchup, Dragon's Claw is specifically for other Burn decks.
The other direction to go when building around Arclight Phoenix in Modern is Izzet. Adding another color makes choosing cards for the deck a bit more difficult as there is a whole additional colors worth of cards to choose from. The blue-red version has also been putting up strong results online, though it still is yet to be seen how the results will translate in paper.
Thing in the Ice is a card we have seen be successful in Izzet decks before, so that gives us a base to go off. It wants to be in a deck with lots of noncreature spells, similar to Arclight Phoenix. Oftentimes we have seen Thing in the Ice alongside Young Pyromancer, but in a deck that needs a very high density of noncreature spells, you can only have so many creatures. Bedlam Reveler is once again prioritized to give the deck lategame card drawing and allow the deck to have a grindy element that is also a discard outlet.
This deck isn't quite as focused on burn, as it only plays the best burn spells from the red version: Lightning Bolt and Fiery Temper. This deck has more cantrips and card draw compared to the mono-red version, though being that many of the cantrips are blue it no longer makes sense to have Runaway Steam-Kin.
Opt and Serum Visions are normal for combo decks that want to fix its draws. Chart a Course, on the other hand, up until now hasn't taken the leap to Modern. It is a major presence in the Standard version of this deck, though, as it provides both a discard outlet and card draw. This is an upgrade from Tormenting Voice. Overall the strategy of both Phoenix decks is very similar.
There is not yet a consensus build of these Phoenix decks even though we know they are very powerful. It is going to be interested to see which one rises to the top. Here is one that plays a few more creatures.
Kiln Fiend can be absurdly strong, and if left unchecked in a deck with lots of noncreature spells it deals huge chunks of damage. It is even stronger alongside Temur Battle Rage, but I understand why this deck might not want to play that. Mission Briefing stands out in this list as another way to get Archlight Phoenix into the graveyard and chain several spells together. We see multiple Guilds of Ravnica cards making a splash in all the versions of the Arclight Phoenix deck.
Crackling Drake is a card I'm a little unsure of here, though it is super important in the Standard version of the deck. We see Molten Rain prioritized in many of the sideboards here as a way to beat big-mana decks, and is one of the most important cards to have access to. There should also be some amount of Counterspells that blue can provide, though they don't exactly work well with helping Arclight Phoenix entering play.
Thanks for reading,